For most kids, there are a few givens over summer break — mosquito bites, staying up too late and going to camp, but with 98 percent of Steelton-Highspire students considered economically disadvantaged, summer camp can feel out of reach.
That was the case until Steelton Highspire United (SHU) cofounder Julianna Paioletti decided to change camp accessibility.
For the past five years, she has organized a completely free soccer camp for Steelton-Highspire School District students.
“Some of them could never have this experience without us,” Paioletti said.
Mother of three, Amanda Miller, knows what it’s like to stretch a dollar.
“They are 2, 4, and 6. On a day to day basis, I make do,” Miller said.
All three of her children are enrolled in the camp — two of which are on the autism spectrum.
“They really don’t do well interacting with other kids. So, just seeing my kids out there on the field interacting with other kids — it’s nice,” Miller said.
The camp is entirely funded by community sponsors and fundraisers held by SHU. It’s the most expensive event Paioletti puts on, but she said it’s worth every second of planning and stress.
“We just love to do it. We’ve done if for five years now, and it’s growing every year, and we will continue to do it every year,” she said.
New this year is a secret weapon of a coach, Mehki Flowers.
“These kids know him. They know of him. They know his name,” Paioletti said.
Mehki is a footballer, but not the kind that scores hat tricks. The Steelton Sophomore is only 15, but he has five D1 offers for American football at WVU, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Kent State, and Morgan State.
“It’s kind of my job to keep kids on track, basically, both in the school and around the district,” Mehki said.
He may be used to using his hands over his feet, but he never has to second guess where his heart belongs.
“I think every kid should want to work hard for more than themselves,” Mehki said.